You Are Guiles In Your Dreams
For some unknown reason I thought of this Jenny Holzer quote this morning. Jenny Holzer is an American conceptual artist that works with words and phrases. You are Guiles In Your Dreams, Protect Me From What I want and Being Sure Of Yourself Means You’re A Fool are just a few examples of Jenny’s work. Jenny’s art flows silently across LED’s in Time’s Square, snaking down the Guggenheim Museum, temporarily tattooed on skin and projected on buildings.
Jenny’s Twitter page (@JennyHolzer) may be the coolest use of Twitter. By using Twitter as medium Jenny reaches thousands of people (she currently has almost 22,000 followers), finds a perfect new medium for her art and elevates Twitter’s occasionally banal space to the equivalent of an artist’s canvas.
We worked with Jenny’s art on LED’s, wooden postcards and t-shirts at Found Objects (1993 – 2002). Jenny’s ambivalence about her “tchotchkies” was amusing and understandable. Jenny’s original work in galleries demands tens maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars. Our Holzer wooden postcards cost a few dollars (back in the day, they are probably collectors items now). Jenny’s interest have always been reaching people first and paying bills second creating one of the reasons her art is true and meaningful. If you don’t know Jenny’s work, here are some links you will enjoy.
Jenny’s Twitter Page
Jenny’s Wikipedia Page
Jenny’s Projections Web Site
Sunday, October 31, 2010
You Are Guiles In Your Dreams
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Death of The Marlboro Man
There it was. “I organize teams,” was my response to the question of what I did for a living. “Like a coach,” I helplessly continued. Questioning eyes searched my face looking for more. “I search for talent then look for ways to combine people to create cool things,” I blathered on. It was impossible. How to describe the strange Kismet that happens in winning collaboration?
The Marlboro man is a romantic ideal. We don’t do things alone anymore. In an age of increased specialization we do less and less individually even as collectively we accomplish more and more. This makes what I do hard to explain at parties. I help network, collaborate, share and Wiki our way forward.
We carry dual roles into a new economy. We simultaneously create and manage, guide and follow, listen and communicate. New tools such as open source, shared applications program interfaces (API’s), blogs, Wiki’s and a connected world wide web make such simulcast possible. Do we collaborate because we have sophisticated collaboration tools or did collaboration start the game?
Our new industrial future hinges on collaboration. Why is moot. Collaboration provides manifest benefits including lower costs, faster scale and greater profits. Crowd wisdom helps find gold (GoldCorp), design cars (Local Motors) and look for new stars (GalaxyZoo). Turns out amateurs and crowds of all kinds provide valuable bundled wisdom.
We are more connected than we realize. Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks by Christakis and Fowler explains how our friends of friends impact our lives. When people we don’t know lose or gain weight so do we. If all connection is collaboration we collaborate with more people than we know or realize. Facebook illustrates the point. You are more connected than you realize.
The Marlboro man died of cancer. Cancer killed the romantic idea of a levi’s clad loner staring stoically into a lonely future. Our future will be less lonely. We will collaborate, collaborate and collaborate some more. Our children’s generation will assume open architecture along with their ability to move ideas and atoms across a network to friends or friends of friends with ease, grace and joy. I can’t explain what I do at parties, but soon it won’t matter. Soon we will contribute our skills to a collective idea willingly sharing our talents. We exchange isolation for global connection easily tasking piecemeal problems across the sharpest minds. We will use open networks extending and reconfiguring our friends, friends of friends and friends of friends of friends.
Our network created products will be better, greener, more creative and rewarding. Like bartenders we will mix ideas from here, components from there and markets from someplace else. Crowd wisdom will create, alter and reconfigure markets, products and strategies. Informed leadership is different than abdication. Producers produce, but placing all our money on red as an imaginary wheel spins will seem needlessly reckless. This assumed future is sure. The Marlboro Man is dead killed by Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. What do I do for a living? I organize teams, you know like a coach. Soon so will we all.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Is Tom Otterness America's greatest living sculptor? I like Richard Serra's reduced weight clarity, but Otterness plays with big rounded blocks of hope and wit. As smart as Serra's sculptural philosophy is is how playful sculptures by an admitted adult child Tom Otterness are. Tom's sculptures live in their own unique playground. Look for more than a moment and you see Otterness's scaling wit, but you don't care. By the time Otterness's wit is clear you know he is laughing with not at you.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Your Web Site’s Nonverbals
Web sites communicate in many ways. Nonverbal communication happens but needs explanation. All web sites are designed environments. Someone selected what goes where. Visitors know web site design doesn’t happen by accident, design isn’t a random thing.
Humans are smart pattern-seeking animals. We want to know what is behind the curtain. Insatiable curiosity is why marketers are beginning to understand any process is a product (read my Process Is Product post).
Every web design decision holds two values. One value is obvious. Good web designers watch web analytics carefully, moving page elements around carefully like they live in a delicate china shop. Web Managers watch conversion ripples associated with any move. Web design is Darwinian because Web Designers keep what works and they rework the rest. The other value harder to see. The other value is your web site's nonverbal communication.
Web Site Nonverbal Communication Happens
Nonverbal communication happens underneath the surface of every web site. One immediate question visitors ask is what should I do followed quickly by where should I go. Do and go are so close to one another online there is little distinction. The idea your customers or visitors want to know where to go on your web site is no surprise. The idea your site’s visitors are simultaneously trying to understand who you are may be. Communication clarity is web site design nirvana. Customers and readers always surprise is one lesson of being a Director of E-Commerce for several million dollar web sites over the last ten years. What my team and I thought was easy and clear almost never was.
How long will frustrated visitors spend figuring out a web mess? I created my first web site in 1999 (Martin's First Web Site), also known as the good old days. Customers were willing to put up with some confusion and frustration back in the day. Standards and expectations were evolving. My first web site design could afford to be a little obscure. Customers might take a minute or even two to figure out what we wanted them to do and who we were. Ah, the halcyon days.
Today is different. Your web site has seconds to make its purpose, navigation and meaning clear. Your web site must address two audiences (people and search engine algorithms) with occasionally disparate needs. Shortening time from arrival to understanding means design tactics must change. Your web site design must create synergy: synergy of navigation, mission and location.
Web Site Navigation
I love main vertical menus on the left because of The Golden Triangle. In western cultures we read left to right making the upper left a “hot” zone, a place where our eyes spend more time. Heat maps watching web site eye movement show this “bloom” or “golden triangle” in the upper left. Eyes also trace images making areas to a picture's right and immediately below “hot”. It is possible to move visitor’s eyes to where you want, to a place of positive action (also called “conversion) by intelligently using text, graphics and hot spots.
Before voluntary unemployment to ride a bicycle across the country raising money for cancer research, my team and I worked from the golden triangle out trying to place the most important things into the hottest zones. Small design changes will make big differences in web page conversions.
Duke CarePages Experiment
It is easier to show rather than tell, so let’s look at the home page for Duke’s CarePages. Use this link to see the page as it is now:
Not Bad, but...
This home page is vastly improved. Only about a week ago the page was much less presentable with over 200 words of copy, no bullet points and no image of hands to create a hot zone above the sign up form. This version is better but still suffers schizophrenia. As a Web Designer you must be clear and concise. Any confusion creates exponential confusion with visitors.
The page attempts to serve four masters – new and returning CarePages members and CarePages and Duke Medicine. It is possible to create a single page to serve multiple masters, but it is harder. I prefer using cookies to know what page to present. Once you are a member and so cookied you would never see the “sign up” form, but let’s tackle the problem as is.
CarePages Web Design Problems
- Battling menus (Duke Medicine vs. CarePages menu, New vs. Returning)
- No clear benefit (what is in it for me?)
- Do What Now? (not clear)
- Too many and wrong words (copy)
- Sign In vs. Sign Up conflict
- Security not addressed
* Martin's rework of Duke CarePages *
Battling Menus: How Proximity Creates Web Site Nonverbal Communication
The most glaring problem is location of the CarePages menu above the Duke Medicine menu. This location tips the balance of the page toward returning customers due to where the Duke Medicine menu falls. Returning visitors need less help than new, so why is this page so dedicated to them? Menu arrangement as it is now with CarePages at the top and Duke Medicine in closer proximity to the sign up form creates confusion. Proximity is a BIG way a web site creates nonverbal communication. When something is proximate it is assumed to be related. Proximity mistakes are easy problems to solve. I just moved the Duke Medicine menu up and the CarePages menu down cementing the relationship with the sign up / sign in form.
Sign Up / Sign In Form
The Sign Up form is a mess. Here is where serving two masters is a disaster, but a good disaster, a typical disaster. When serving two masters good web designers use white space and buffers isolating sign up from sign in. It is impossible to simultaneously serve two masters via a single navigation path, so finding ways to design in separate paths is key. I would opt for a more prominent Sign Up button pushing the Sign In button to the background by only using text (no button) and a lighter color. These design changes help new visitors more than returning (which is what we want to do).
No Clear Benefit
More words rarely equal better words. Knowing when to STOP is an important Web Designer and copywriter skill. Remember your web site communicates nonverbally. When you are verbose in your tags, as “emotional support. Shared experiences. Hope. Now within your reach.” your site is seen as verbose. As verbose as this tag is there is a bigger problem. The tag doesn’t reflect the benefit CarePages brings. The tag HINTS at the benefit of connection, but you have to read the paragraph to get the point. I don’t like to hint at core issues. Connection is the benefit, so connection should be in the tag. I also like to use “today” to signal time. Time on a web site can be elusive, but today is an important concept to anyone experiencing a health challenge. Today reinforces immediacy, something good is going to happen today…if I join CarePages.
Do What Now?
Do you see the hot spot? It is right below the picture of the adult and child’s hands. This is a good picture, strong enough to overcome a weak placement (all the way on the right side of the design). If you ever fill up such a HOT zone with so many words you owe me twenty sit-ups (lol). Focus on “calls to action” such as “join now”, “read more” or “subscribe now”. Calls to Action, also known as CTA’s, help visitors know what you want them to do now. In this case we communicate two actions: returning visitors sign in new visitors sign up.
Too Many and Wrong Words
Poor web site copy kills conversion. Remember your web site’s nonverbal communication. Lots of words means lots of work, dense, lectures not conversations and more bad things (I say this knowing I am beyond 1,000 words on this post, sorry). Language is so important. Existing copy discusses a “Healthcare Challenge”. I think they mean health challenge since a “Healthcare Challenge” would be a problem with the health care system (which there are many). Cancer patients know the difference between health challenges and Healthcare Challenges. CarePages can help with one (health) and do little about the other (healthcare). More accurate and compelling language is a must, but this doesn’t mean more words. Use words sparingly since they carry a lot of nonverbal weight. Clean, accurate and compelling is better than crowded, confused and verbose in every web design.
Sign Up vs. Sign In
We’ve already covered this conflict and you can see how simply changing a few page elements using buffers and white space helps resolve the conflict.
Security Not Addressed
Web sites are ubiquitous. Our lives would stop without them, yet we suffer collective neurosis about their security. This is a health care site, so best to say “secure” somewhere prominent and means it.
Want a Free reading of your web site’s nonverbal communication?
Contact Marty Smith
Founder, ScentTrail E-Commerce
Sunday, October 10, 2010
WordTracker may be the best keyword research tool on the planet. It takes some getting used to, it takes using it and understanding WordTracker's "modeled" world. WordTracker's counts are relevant to each other. If one keyword models with a 10 "Count" and another earns a five then the ten is worth roughly twice as much traffic as the five. The tricky part is more is not always better. More skipping or non-converting traffic actually HURTS your web site. Google's algorithm delivers traffic to the most relevant source. Skips take down your relevance scores so more traffic is not always better. Traffic matched to your landing pages, traffic that takes a converting action is worth its weight in SEO gold. There are many "converting actions" including buying, subscribing, reading a page carefully (i.e. staying on it) and continuing to link further into the site. Skips bad, converting actions are good.
WordTracker's tools are expensive. Now that I don't have an expense report paying the freight WordTracker, a UK company so dollars must be converted to pounds, is beyond my means. Good news is WordTracker makes a FREE Keyword Research Tool. The ads are a bit frustrating, but I've found my subscription to their newsletter very helpful. Here are links to two recent helpful articles from WordTracker:
Getting the Most Out of Pay Per Click (PPC)
Working from Keywords (outside) to web site design (inside)
The second link is an important idea. Most web developers work inside out. They have ideas and build a web site to represent those ideas. Having ideas is fine, but check them with WordTracker's keywords to see if your ideas match how potential customers THINK about what you do. Believe me your online marketing life will be much easier if you work, at least partially, from the outside (how potential customers talk about your business) to inside (how you talk). Recently I noticed ecommerce searches are much higher than e-commerce. I won't change 100% of my usage, but I will think about when it makes the most sense to use the keyword with higher counts.
Strongly suggest subscribing to WordTracker's SEO Newsletter
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Online Social Capital: We are all dogs.
Ivan Pavlov, as many may remember from intro to psychology, was the father of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning trained dogs to salivate when a bell rang. Pavlov gave his dogs a reward while ringing a bell. Eventually Pavlov’s dogs salivated to the ringing bell. In Pavlov’s dogs’ world bell equaled reward. The dog’s response was a conditioned reflect like a muscle twitch.
Our modern world is replete with rewards. We live in a time of plenty. Our basic needs, food, clothing and shelter are taken care of (says the man without a job at the moment LOL). The human mind is a wonderful perpetual motion machine; it thinks all the time. Take food, clothing and shelter off the table and our minds find new information to parse, categorize and understand.
Smart Web Marketers Create Social Capital
I just earned my “Newbie” badge from http://www.FourSquare.com. FourSquare is a mobile phone application that links friends, shares “underground” information and “unlocks” a city. Pavlov, if he were alive, would work at FourSquare. The FourSquare development team are online social capital geniuses.
FourSquare’s game is have members “check in” when they go to a place. Checking in garners social capital and alerts friends to your location (controlled by privacy settings). Check in more than anyone at your favorite restaurant to become The Mayor of StarBucks or Panera Bread or whatever.
I can hear the “so whats” as I write this. Anyone saying “so what” doesn’t understand web marketing. Web marketing is about engagement and creating user generated content. FourSquare’s users update its database. When a favorite spot isn’t available for check in users are encouraged to “add” it thereby keeping FourSquare’s database up to date (for free, or more accurately for some social capital). By the way, engagement is the hardest thing to create online (Read Citizen Marketer to discover the magic 1% who normally contribute). Engagement is the holy grail of web marketing, yet few e-commerce platforms engage well. A few examples of engaging platforms include (REI, Bass Pro Shops and Amazon). These e-commerce web sites are good, but no one understands social capital better than FourSquare. FourSquare started with fun and worked backwards (smart, very smart).
I’ve managed multimillion-dollar e-commerce web sites. We don’t have enough resources to create all needed content was a truth we came to quickly. Content is king online. Search engines demand it. Search engines demand so much frequently updated content there is no way, no way, your company, no matter how substantial or rich, can create enough. If your site is going to be a search engine-marketing (SEM) player it must creatively outsource content creation.
Earning social capital is the only reward system your company can afford. FourSquare does what all good web marketing teams should – they crowd sourced their database, created a social reward system and made playing their game fun and easy. If you understand web philosophy half as well as Jimmy Wales, creator of Wikipedia, then participation is sufficient social reward. Problem is few are smart enough to place their company so effectively in line with the web’s altruistic roots. Appealing to hard-core webhead isn't easy either. Trying to be the next Wikipiedia is a no win game if your company makes a profit. Wales understood he wouldn’t get help if Wikipedia was for profit. He created the not-for-profit Wikipedia foundation and has faithfully kept his hands off.
Your company is not and never will be Wikipedia (sorry). If you do want to help a worthy charity please don’t forget Martin’s Ride To Cure Cancer :). If you want to make profit your best content creation bet is develop a system of fun social rewards such as banners, buttons and badges. Social capital must be seen and competed for to be effective.
Somewhere down the line convert social capital to a low cost forms of cash such as gift certificates (for the uber-contributors and use sparingly) or special contributor discounts (maybe). Other social capital reward systems exist. Facebook wants you to complete a profile. LinkedIn tells you how close you are to a complete profile and contributing to Wikipedia makes you cool. Few online social reward systems are as complete or tongue and cheek fun as FourSquare.com. If you want customers to contribute reviews, comments and blog posts study FourSquare.com and remember Pavlov’s dog (I’m salivating just thinking about it).
Monday, October 4, 2010
When we added product videos at my last gig we tripled conversion (Read Social Media Marketing Secrets #3 Video). We tripled product page conversions WITHOUT selling our souls to the devil (lol). My gut is screaming at me. "Video is the NEXT BIG THING in online marketing," it is yelling. Everyday data streams in supporting this view. Google and YouTube are current kings of online video viewing, but Facebook is coming up fast with a 33% share. I predict Facebook video viewing will exceed YouTube in 36 months. Video makes web pages come alive. This is a case where business is following customers. Better follow quickly. Here are highlights from a new ComScore online video study:
Other ComScore Online Video Findings
US Leads Online Video Viewing
- 85.1% of the total US Internet audience viewed online video.
- The duration of the average online content video was 4.8 minutes, while the average online video ad was 0.4 minutes.
- Video ads accounted for 10.7% of all videos viewed and 1% of all minutes spent viewing video online.
The US is the leading region for viewing online video from most sources, according to a new white paper from Brightcove and TubeMogul.
Findings from “Online Video & The Media Industry” show that US viewers watched the greatest amount of online video content for the longest periods of time across the broadcast, magazine, music video and radio verticals. In particular, US viewers accounted for more than 50% of magazine total views with a leading average of 3:44 minutes per view, and had a substantially higher average minutes per view average (1:24) than any other region.
Marketing Charts summary of ComScore online video study.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
"People tolerate advertising to get to the content. I don't see why advertising can't become the destination and the content." Dave Droga, from The Age of Persuasion page178Unilever understands Droga's idea. Their "Mad Men" ads are sexy, cool and indistinguishable from the content. High production values and referencing an Emmy award winning show creates leeway for WPP's Leeway Entertainment agency to make mayo sexy. The larger point is ads MUST be cool and cutting edge if they have any hope at breaking through clutter and cynical consumers. Are the Mad Men ads bait and switch? Any creative capable of making mayo sexy is worth admiration making the bait and switch question moot.
FlipBoard creates a personal magazine from social media content. The "magazine" only plays on iPads at the moment. Hope they plan on expanding this application. Would love to have it on my Air. Excellent teaching video earns them a place on my Top 10 Online Videos (writing now).